Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Restaurants in DC - Oyamel

It seems that even though I love to eat my way through DC, I rarely ever actually post about it. I think it's because most of the time, I am just so excited by the food that I start eating it before I actually take photos.  Food blogger faux pas, I know......

Except I'm hoping to make a fresh start and start blogging my food adventures.  Although I try not to eat out too often,  there are days when I just want to try something completely different that I know I have no ability to make.   And when the occasion to go to an Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull concert came around, I knew that it was one of those times I wanted to go out of my way to try a new restaurant I've always wanted to try that isn't just a neighborhood favorite.

Enter Oyamel.

I had heard about Oyamel from so many people, along with the other restaurants that the Chef, Chef José Andrés owns.  Although we had originally planned on going to Proof, we changed our minds at the last minute and decided on something a little more whimsical and Spanish/Central/South American themed to get us in the spirit of the concert.  Cue me looking through Open Table to find a restaurant within the Penn Quarter area near the Verizon Center that wouldn't be completely packed..and I stumbled upon Oyamel.

A little side note here, OpenTable has been pretty useful for me in trying to figure out what restaurant to go to, especially when I just search for a time that I can go to and the area that I'm going to be in.  It takes the trouble of calling around different restaurants trying to find one that will work for me.  And by going through OpenTable, I have compiled a verrrry long list of more restaurants that I want to try out.  This is a pretty well known tip by now, but still, I'm realizing more and more how useful they are.

Right from the front door, it is easy to see that a lot of thought went into the design of the restaurant.  There are monarch butterfly designs scattered throughout the restaurant, and the orange/red paint gives off a great vibe.  According to their website, Oyamel is named for the fig trees that monarch butterflies take refuge in during their migration. I have to admit, the butterflies weren't something I expected out of a Mexican restaurant, but after being in there for awhile, I can tell that it definitely fits with the whimsical theme of the restaurant.

Oyamel kind of uses a tapas style, antitjitos, small plates philosophy, which is always fun for me.  It gives me the opportunity to try out multiple things at once.  They have all sorts of dishes, as well as a great selection of tacos.    But, does anyone else get overwhelmed by menus whenever they go to a restaurant?  I love eating, but I am also so indecisive. Thankfully, Oyamel has a large menu, but I was able to pick out the top things that I wanted to try pretty quickly.  

While we waited for our orders, we munched on chips and salsa and  enjoyed some drinks.  I'm usually a beer person, but they have quite an impressive list of cocktails that I would love to try out.  

One quick note in here, and probably important for many of you - I was really impressed with their service.  We had made a note before we started ordering that we had to make it to a concert later that night so we made sure that all the food we ordered would come out fairly quickly.  Everything came out quickly, even when our waiter said it would probably take about 10 minutes, and all the servers were so friendly to us.  The chicken mole we ordered came out just a few minutes after receiving our chips, which worked just fine for me because I was starving by that point.

Chicken Mole, by the way, is one of those dishes I always order whenever I'm in a Mexican restaurant.  The complexity of the sauce means that I haven't even attempted making it myself yet, but the mix of poblano, chile, and chocolate is the most amazing combination of spicy, bitter, and sweet.It came with a generous side of herbed rice, which was also incredible. It was flagrant and flavorful, but not too strong to compete with the mole sauce.  I could probably eat this everyday....

To keep with the "quick and light" theme, we ordered two tacos each.  Again, I think they might just be a tad expensive, but I think the flavors made it worth it.  I ordered the "Tinga poblana con puerco" - Pork with chorizo, lettuce, and avocado.  Anything with chorizo, pork, and avocado is a win in my book, but the real standout was the "Pancita de puerco al pasto," or also known as pork belly, with some pineapples thrown in there as well.  Pork belly is one of my favorite foods to eat, no matter how decadent it is, and the pineapple was a really great addition to cut through the fat of the pork belly.

Total satisfaction in the form of tacos.

Although we didn't have the time to eat through a full meal,  the little samplings we ordered left me wanting more. While I've eaten at quite a few restaurants in DC, not too many of them will stand out enough to have me thinking about it for days after.  DC is certainly in no shortage of restaurants, but I think what ultimately sold me was the overall environment of the restaurant.  I just felt relaxed, and like I could have fun.  This time around, the decor played a pretty role in my experience in the restaurant.  That along with the easy going servers who were attentive to our requests, and the great food that came out makes me want to go back...and soon.  I think next time I'm there, some "must eats" are their tacos with grasshopper, the "Chapulines," and their Papas al mole - potato fries with mole sauce...although I honestly would happily eat anything on their menu!

Who can resist a picture in front of some butterflies?

Next time you're in the mood for some fun Mexican, and you're not looking for a restaurant to overstuff you with food, check out Oyamel.

And make reservations with OpenTable because they get pretty busy.

Oyamel Website
Make a reservation with OpenTable 

401 7th Street NW, Washington DC  
(Penn Quarter; Gallery Place)

Got any other favorite restaurants in DC?  Let me know because I'm always up for eating....and make sure you stay tuned for more restaurant reviews in the future!


  1. I love Oyamel! I am happy you got to try it. I love going for their happy hours & trying new margaritas. xo

    1. It's definitely a new favorite! Their happy hour looks pretty great, although I never seem to be there during those times!